According to researchers, the achievement not only offers insight into Sjgren's syndrome, but into the general developmental machinery of the immune system.
The immunologists, Yuan Zhuang, HongMei Li and MeiFang Dai, published their findings in the October 2004 issue of the journal Immunity. The work was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
In a preview of the article, immunologist Marjan Versnel wrote that the new mouse model "offers a wonderful opportunity to study in detail the relationship between the immune system and autoimmunity occurring in the context of only a single genetic lesion." Versnel is at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.
According to Zhuang, while Sjgren's syndrome is not well known, affecting up to 0.6 percent of the population. It manifests itself in middle age, mostly in women.
"Most patients do not see a physician unless it becomes very serious or other problems arise, such as fatigue, arthritis, or inflammation of the lungs, kidneys or blood vessels," he said. Treatment for the disorder involves lubricant drops for the eyes and drugs that increase production of saliva.
"Basically nothing was known about the genetic basis of the disease," said Zhuang. "It was only known that the patients showed infiltration of lymphocytes into lachrymal and salivary glands and the production of certain autoantibodies." Lymphocytes are white blood cells -- T cells and B cells -- that are major components of the immune system. T cells are those that directly attack invaders such
Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University Medical Center